Making Marketing Initiatives Count

Editor’s note: Automated speech-to-text transcription, edited lightly for clarity.

On September 20, 2023, SurveyMonkey reported on their findings from a recent study in a webinar. They looked into the biggest opportunities and challenges facing marketers today. The results lead SurveyMonkey to create a framework to help alleviate those pain points. 

Watch the full video or read the transcript below from September’s Wisdom Wednesday session with SurveyMonkey.

Webinar transcription: 

Joe Rydholm:

Hi everybody and welcome to our webinar, “How to Make Every Marketing Initiative Count.”

I'm Quirk’s Editor, Joe Rydholm, and before we get started, let's quickly go over the ways you can participate in today's discussion. You can use a chat tab to interact with other attendees during the session, and you can use the Q&A tab to submit questions to the presenters during the session, and we will answer as many questions as we have time for during the Q&A portion. 

Our session today is presented by SurveyMonkey. Enjoy the webinar.

Laura Wronski:

Hi everyone. My name is Laura Wronski. I'm our director of research here at SurveyMonkey. 

As you all know, marketers are a resilient group, but we've had a rough couple of years, especially in the tech sector, but also in the country as a whole. Because of that, we've learned lessons about the importance of agility, willingness to try new approaches and the breakthroughs that can come from making bold decisions as an economic downturn looms. The pressures are intense, but they're different now than they might've been six months ago. 

Marketers are again faced with a high stakes environment where anticipating trends can be difficult. 

In this presentation, I'll share our ask, listen, act framework for decision-making that hopefully alleviates some of those pressure points and can help make marketing teams and therefore all organizations make better decisions together. 

Our presentation today, as you can see, is called “How to Make Every Marketing Initiative Count,” so as you might expect from a very data-driven organization, this presentation isn't based on theory alone, it's based on data.

That's why I am here. As our research director, we launched a study to understand the most pressing challenges and the biggest opportunities facing marketers in 2023. 

This survey was conducted from January 18 to 26 of this year among a sample of 1,127 workers in the U.S. including 544 marketing professionals. 

And this is really an example of the type of research that me and my team conduct all of the time. This one was specifically conducted among marketers, but we conduct similar projects among CX professionals, educators, health care workers, really anyone else, sometimes just workers in general. 

So here the focus is specifically on marketing, but hopefully you'll see we'll pull in from some insights that are probably relevant to all different sorts of professions.

Here's an outline for what I will cover in the next 20 or so minutes. 

The challenges that marketers are facing these days, the opportunities that they have now that they might not have had before, what the data actually shows, our meeting goals, KPIs and measuring impact. 

And then finally, I'll pull all of that together into our ask, listen and act framework. We rely on this really heavily at SurveyMonkey and we think it would be useful to you all as well. 

So first, the challenges. Let's address some of the challenges to marketer success in the current environment, focusing on how the economy, the marketplace and general competitive conditions can create headwinds.

As I mentioned, all of the statistics that I'll be sharing today come from that proprietary research I mentioned a few slides ago. 

The first main point that I want to emphasize is that competition is fierce. More than half of marketers say their company is facing more competition now than they were last year. A few say they're facing less competition and the rest are saying that competition is the same as it has been. 

And that increased competition is inspiring confidence because less than half of marketers, 47%, expect their company to gain a competitive edge during a downturn. 

All of this competition is really coming from the larger macroeconomic environment. There's just more pressures on businesses these days and that's trickling down to marketing departments as well. So let's consider more about what's causing that increase in competition.

Concerns about the economy weigh heavily, but even so, companies overall expectations remain high. Almost half of marketers, 49%, say the health of the economy is the most important factor to their company's success. 

Earlier this year, layoffs were the main focus. Layoffs have hit some sectors, especially hard including tech, and the challenge to secure internal resources is really creating uncertainty about what marketers can achieve. 

Marketers are on the receiving end of shifting strategies and direction, making them concerned about their ability to execute, but in general, I think at this point we've moved past just worrying about layoffs and there's general economic concerns about how well the economy is doing and how well the U.S. is doing relative to other countries. 

Growth is a top priority in 2023 with six in 10 marketers, 62%, saying their company expects to focus on market expansion. At the same time, 41% of marketers anticipate slowing growth to be a challenge in the next year. Brand growth is particularly important to marketers with 91% saying it is critical to company success in 2023.

But meeting goals and showing impact is an ongoing struggle. Tight internal resources are piling more pressure on marketing teams with eight in 10 marketers saying their team's performance expectations have increased this year, but 33% saying their budgets will decrease or stay the same. 

The adage of doing more with less has never been more real and more formidable. This isn't true just for marketers, but it might be especially true for marketers. 

Marketers are in a unique space where they are always expected to make the most of a tricky situation, and here we're really seeing that in the data itself with so many people saying that more is expected of them and yet they have fewer and fewer resources to get the job done.

Okay, so we've established that marketers have to find a way to bridge the gap between leadership expectations and market challenge. They have to understand that their target markets are both challenging and paramount to marketers success. Marketers need to do more with less budget and fewer resources to meet their performance goals. 

Now let's pivot to the opportunities we see. 

While they faced a lot of challenges over the past several years, marketers are an optimistic group and largely feel positive about their ability to thrive in key areas. I think that's kind of core to what it is to be a marketer. You have to be able to make the best of a bad situation. You have to be able to find a positive spin to put on things. 

We took a deeper look at the differences between marketers that had confidence in their company's position in the market and those that did not. 

We found that marketers at more confident companies had some things in common. Specifically, they were highly likely to say they have the data and insights they needed to understand their target market, to anticipate their target market needs and to proactively address market trends.

Here's one opportunity or one source of strength for marketers at the moment. They're willing and actually they're eager to take risks and be proactive. Maybe it was navigating the pandemic or the growing kind of acceptance of pivoting at work, but marketers seem to feel empowered to take their shots. 56% of marketers say their companies plan to take risks when it comes to business strategy rather than just playing it safe. 

Again, I think this is a unique situation for marketers specifically. I think they get excited about living on the edge a little bit and on finding new ways to contribute rather than just doing the same old work over and over again.

Just over half or 51% of marketers say they have the data insights needed to anticipate market needs most of the time, and that number rises to 67% among marketers who are confident in their company's position among their competitors. 

We really found that to be a key differentiator between marketers who felt like they had a lot of optimism at work and those who were a little bit more pessimistic, those who thought their companies had a lot of potential and those who were not as sure of their company's place. That was a key differentiator in terms of how marketers are viewing their company's future. 

Similarly, eight out of 10 marketers see their company is proactive when it comes to market trends, and again, that number increases to 89% for marketers who are confident in their company's position, anticipating change, testing and harnessing data are key to success. 

Adapting to change is a common theme for marketing teams. When asked what's most important to their own job success, 47% of marketers point to having efficient processes. 45% say having access to tools and resources, 45% say influence in decision-making. 43% want more access to data and insights, and 39% want autonomy in decision-making. 

So you can see on the chart here, all of these are very important. None is reported by more than half of marketers, but they all have about equal value in terms of what's most important to their own job success.

With mounting budget pressure in 2023, companies are looking for ways to cut back, which means reallocating dollars and realigning priorities. However, marketers indicate that now is the time to invest in brand health despite economic challenges. 

In fact, the brand tops the list of marketing priorities and is one of the least likely areas to experience cuts. Brand growth, here is a company differentiator and an area of investment, at least as seen by marketers. That's really the place where most marketing teams feel like they can add value right now. 

Okay, so just a quick recap. We just hit on a few key opportunities for marketers specifically at this time. Number one is being proactive and taking risks with your marketing campaigns. Number two is getting access to data so that you can pivot quickly if needed and make new decisions. Number three is bolstering your brand growth efforts with real insights. Next, we'll discuss what metrics are needed to succeed.

Marketing teams are hyper aware of the need to show impact from campaign performance to brand health metrics. The most successful teams are able to collect feedback and gather insights at all stages of the marketing funnel. Eight out of 10 marketers say it's difficult to collect and access data on their target market, and yet 43% of marketers rank having access to insights as critical to their success. 

To be honest, marketing would be a much easier job if the data needed to make decisions and to understand outcomes was readily available. It's just too often marketers are forced to rely on slow moving research agencies, subpar research, tech, purchasing third party data or scouring the internet for insights. 

Obviously, that's something that we can help alleviate. On the SurveyMonkey side, collecting your own data that's tailored to your own needs is obviously a key differentiator for us.

Marketers need insights to get a campaign off the ground and make sure it lands with their target market the first time. The heightened expectations that marketers are expected to live up to in 2023 also means that there's less wiggle room when something goes wrong. 

Here you can see 34% of marketers say they do not have enough data to understand their target market needs, and a similar 32% say there is a lack of clear metrics at their organization. Additionally, 29% lack the tools they need to gather feedback from the people who they need it from. Most 25% say their target market is difficult to reach so they don't have enough data again, and then 16% say they do not know how to interpret the data that they do have.

Over a third, 35% of marketers think decisions are made too slowly at their company and only a quarter or 26% say data fully drives business decisions indicating a possible reason for that drag. 

39% of marketers rank the ability to make autonomous decisions as one of the top success factors in their role, but they need to be empowered to do so both with data and with influence. This was a key finding in our report. 

We found that in places where business decisions were being made too slowly and without enough data, marketers were less confident in their overall business prospects and in the work that they were doing.

So we just talked through how marketers are facing increased performance expectations and how they need to show their impact. 

In this last section, we'll discuss our ask, listen, act framework. 

First ask, obviously, we are a survey platform and I'm a researcher, so one of our core beliefs is that asking the right questions, I would say good, thoughtful, timely questions, unbiased questions, that's always the right place to start. 

Asking good questions helps you understand your stakeholders, whoever they are. They could be your C-suite, they could be your top customers, they could be your target market, it doesn't matter who. Don’t try to guess what people are thinking. Ask them. Pressure test your ideas before you build them into your programs.

Tap into sentiment from your target market before you launch new products, messaging offers and programs. This might be obvious, but people often skip this step. 

Then listen, gather data that can be applied to your programs.Formulating the right data into actionable insights helps you understand why your programs work or why they don't work. Running an AB subject line test might help you boost click-through rates, but it can also help you think bigger about what you really need to succeed. 

Another mistake that marketers often make is spending a bunch of resources, so time, money, both of those things on a big research project, and then not actually listening to the results. Don't make that mistake. Build in the time to listen and allow the data to guide your decision-making. Don't just check the box and say that you did the market research. 

Then finally, act, develop and execute a plan that incorporates your findings. Provide a proof of concept by sharing the results of a product development test with stakeholders and leadership. Build in findings that others might've missed, like the fact that your latest ad campaign might've generated clicks, but it might not have impacted the purchase intent in findings.Build consensus for your ideas by providing context with data. 

As we've discussed earlier, marketers say they feel more confident when they have hard data to back up their decision-making. It's a really useful crutch for you to have if you're going into an important meeting. And remember what I mentioned before when I was talking about how eight in 10 marketers say it's difficult to collect and access data on their target market, and yet also 43% of marketers rank having access to insights as critical to their success. 

So there's obviously a gap here between what marketers say they need to do their jobs well and what they actually have. That doesn't have to be you, you can create your own data and build confidence for yourself, for your team, for your company. You can go in prepared to that next meeting. You can arm yourself with the data that you need. 

Okay, that is it for me for right now. Thank you so much for listening to the presentation. 

I am happy to answer any questions that you might have and provide the resource, our resource guide for this marketing report for anyone who's interested. 

Thanks so much.